Upernavik is set amidst a labyrinth of small islands that is home to traditional settlements, enormous icebergs, millions of birds, and the elusive narwhal.
AappilattorqInnaarsuitKangersuatsiaq (Prøven)KullorsuaqNaajatNuussuaqNutaarmiutTasiusaqUpernavik Kujalleq
Upernavik has a Pilersuisoq supermarket that stocks a little of everything including limited, basic camping supplies. However, it is best to bring your own outdoor equipment with you. There is also a smaller Købmand LT-kiosk.
You can purchase souvenirs directly from the artisans at the Handicraft Workshop, or explore what is on offer at Grocer Qullilerisoq
Even the world’s very best sculptors could not imagine the intricacies or magnitude of the gargantuan icebergs that surround Upernavik, Greenland. Often mistaken from a distance as one of the thousands of islands making up the broken coastline of this part of Baffin Bay, they beckon travellers with an adventurous spirit to explore the natural wonders and remote settlements that lie hidden within this maze-like landscape.
Traditions remain strong despite the arrival of modern comforts, allowing visitors to experience what life used to be like for the Inuit of Greenland.
Upernavik is located in north-west Greenland on a small island of the same name. International visitors flying to Upernavik must transit through Ilulissat, though there are also direct domestic flights from Qaanaaq and several small settlements.
Unfortunately, there are no passenger ferries that go as far north as Upernavik. There are, however, several cruise ships that call into port there during the summer.
The best times to visit Upernavik are: December-January (Polar Darkness), May – July (Midnight Sun), February – April (dog sledding, snowmobiling, northern lights), July – August (hiking, kayaking, sailing).
By North Greenland town standards, Upernavik is considered large although most people simply get around on foot. However, if you want a break, there are also taxis available.
For excursions in the area, the most common way to get around is by boat during the summer, or with dog sled or snowmobile during the winter.
Upernavik does not have a hotel, but rather several guesthouses with shared facilities and a dormitory-style hostel. All rooms are basic but clean and most come with spectacular views.
The Upernavik fjord and archipelago consists of thousands of islands that stretch for as far as the eye can see. This is a paradise for adventurers who want to experience Greenland as the Inuit did – paddling a kayak or dog sledding through a maze of icebergs and rocky lowlands.
Journey to the south to see the world’s largest bird cliffs at Apparsuit, or head in the opposite direction to explore the magnificent Upernavik Icefjord. Depending on the season, both are reachable by boat tour, multi-day kayak expedition, dog sledding, or a snowmobile excursion.
Traveling from South to North (or visa versa) also provides a wonderful opportunity to go settlement hopping. Take advantage of the endless daylight under the midnight sun or the glow of the Northern Lights in the eternal polar darkness to explore each picturesque community and see if you can pick out their distinct dialects.
Hunting is an important part of everyday life in the Upernavik area, with narwhals, beluga whales, seals, and polar bears all stalked by the local hunters. Although it may be possible to accompany a hunt, Melville Bay is a designated nature reserve and it is only local residents who have permission to take a highly regulated number of animals each year.
Fishing is also an important activity for Upernavik. Cod, redfish, and halibut are common catches either from a boat (summer) or through a hole in the ice (winter). Alternatively, head up to Eqalugaarsuit where the arctic char are plentiful during the allowed July/August fishing season. Make sure you obtain a fishing license first.
For those interested in history, visit Kingittorsuaq Island near Upernavik where a Norse runestone (now in the National Museum in Denmark) was discovered in the centre of an equilateral triangle formed by three rock cairns in 1824. Dating from around the 13th century and inscribed with the names of three Vikings, this is the farthest north that any Norse artifact has ever been found.
Though Upernavik is located on an island, it (and all the other islands scattered throughout the archipelago) are great places to explore by hiking. Simply find a direction that looks interesting, tell others where you are going, and choose your own adventure. A popular short walk in Upernavik leads Navarana’s grave – the resting place of the wife and fellow expeditioner of the Danish Arctic explorer, Peter Freuchen.
Upernavik boasts the world’s northernmost open-air museum. Encompassing all the original colonial buildings in the old part of town, it tells the cultural history of the area, including the colonial and Viking periods. It also features an old kayak and umiaq boat – the primary methods of transportation that were used in Upernavik during the Summer to navigate the archipelago.
For the most part, you will need to cook for yourself in Upernavik. However, the town does have one cafe if you would like a meal out.